How to Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer
It’s estimated that 6 million car accidents occur per year.1 We don’t necessarily need statistics to verify just how prevalent they are, either—a mere look at the roadways near our homes or a glance at the news serves as a solid reminder of their ubiquitousness.
But nothing hammers this concept home more than when we’ve been involved in a car accident ourselves. And with all that follows a car accident—from seeking medical attention and filing insurance claims to fixing our car to potentially procuring a new one—the last thing we want is another expense… especially one that’s, well, expensive. To add to this, some accident victims also choose to hire a personal injury attorney or a car accident lawyer for legal advice on disputing a car insurance claim.
To this end, innumerable people choose to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. But how does one go about this? And is it doable—and logical? Let’s explore the topic so that you can make a well-informed decision.
Why Would There Be a Claim?
First things first: Why would there be a claim in the aftermath of a car accident?
If you were involved in an auto accident and suffered from injuries—or harm was done to your car (or if it was irrevocably wrecked)—you can pursue compensation from the other driver’s insurance company by filing a claim.
These damages may include:2
- Medical expenses—now and in the future
- The amount of money you were unable to earn on account of the accident and/or personal injury—again, presently, and in the future
- Property damage, or the damage that has been done to your vehicle
- Emotional suffering
- Pain and suffering
How to Settle a Car Accident Claim Without a Lawyer: 7 Steps
It’s widely advised to seek legal counsel if you’ve been involved in a car accident that has caused damage.
That said, as we mentioned above, you may be dealing with an overwhelming amount already and the mere thought of locating a car accident lawyer, meeting for a consultation, and covering their legal fees can feel downright daunting. Handling it on your own is an option, but there are several vital steps to take.
#1 Assess The Damages You’ve Suffered
You may have an immediate and obvious idea of the damages you’ve endured. A broken arm, for example, may be as obvious as a broken fender or a shattered windshield.
But you must be certain what these damages are—and how much you must receive, at a minimum, to get back to your life and on the road toward recovery.
Consider, then, these questions:3
- What medical expenses have you incurred as a result of the auto accident?
- Will the injury (or injuries) you received hamper your life or occupation in any way? If you’re a builder, for example, and broke your shoulder in an accident, how long will it be until you can return to work?
- What will your medical expenses be in the future?
- What income have you lost because of the accident? This ought to include time away from work for recovery, doctor’s appointments, dealing with insurance companies, arranging for car repairs, and so on and so forth.
- How have you suffered emotionally? An insurance company may include emotional distress and pain and suffering in their settlement offer, if one is given. True, it’s immensely challenging putting a number on this. Calculations may be arrived at by peering at the economic trouble you’ve gone through—such as double your medical expenses—or a “per diem” payout for each day that your pain and suffering might continue.
- What were the costs of your car repairs? Or do you need a new car entirely?
Because these numbers are difficult to calculate, it would be wise to seek outside counsel on this matter so that you can settle the claim smartly.
#2 Gather Your Documents and Evidence
Ideally, after the accident, you should have obtained the pertinent information you need for your insurance company, as well as the other driver’s. This should include:
- The time, date, and location of the car accident
- The other driver’s name and insurance company
- The vehicle’s license plate number, VIN, make, and model4
- The contact information of any witnesses, as well as their testimonies, if this applies to your circumstances
- The police report
- Your medical treatment and expenses
- A copy of your lost wages/income
Gathering this information may be beneficial in the event you’ll want to know how to dispute a car accident fault if you’re wrongfully accused of fault. These details should be shared with your insurance company—hopefully, and if you’re capable, within the first 24 hours of the accident.
Speaking of which…
#3 Act in a Timely Manner
In order to seek out fair compensation for your losses, you’ll have to take action within an appropriate time frame.
Cases are subject to the statute of limitations—or the amount of time you have before filing a claim or a lawsuit. This can range between one and three years for car accidents, but this depends on the state in which you live.
#4 Consider The Parties Involved
Typically, if you were not at fault for the car accident, then you’ll be dealing exclusively with the other driver’s insurance company.
However, there are exceptions to this. If, say, you got into an accident with an Uber driver who was “on duty” and with a passenger in the car, Uber may be held liable for the damages incurred.
This, too, may require a consultation with an expert, or your insurance company, to determine.
#5 Compose a Demand Letter
A demand letter is the document that you will submit to the other driver’s insurance company to, hopefully, receive compensation for the losses you’ve faced.
This ought to include (but is not limited to):
- A detailed, factual account of the incident.
- A summary of the expenses you’ve had to deal with. Again, keep in mind that these expenses should not be limited to what you’re presently dealing with but may in the future. If the injuries you obtained will keep you from returning to work for three months—or may lead to your termination—this needs to be worked into your summary.
- Information on your recovery. This may include any surgeries or operations you may need to have, or the physical therapy you’re presently enrolled in.
Lastly, and importantly, the demand letter should include the amount you’re asking for.
#6 Consult With the Insurance Adjustor
In response, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you to discuss. It’s important to remain on topic and consult your copies of the information you submitted with your demand letter.
#7 Review the Settlement, If One Arrives, and Make a Decision
In some cases, if it’s been proven that you were not at fault for the accident, the other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement.
What is a settlement?
A settlement is a lump sum that, if you agree to, means you can’t file future claims for the losses you have encountered. In other words, if you agree to the car accident settlement you were offered, you cannot go back to the insurance company and request additional compensation for being unable to work longer than you thought or requiring more medical attention.
In other words, this is significant.
In this case, you have three options:
- Accept the offer, knowing full well that you cannot request further compensation.
- Negotiate the car accident settlement and counter it with a higher number.
- Decline the settlement offer. If this occurs, the case may have to go to court. If so, please keep in mind that the court process can be exceedingly complicated—and proving yourself in front of the law may be exceptionally challenging, particularly if you choose to advocate for yourself rather than working with a lawyer.
How Can a Lawyer Help Your Car Accident Claim?
A quality, transparent lawyer can be invaluable in a car accident claim. They’re schooled, trained, and experienced in helping people navigate the law—an entity that can be exceedingly complex.
Furthermore, you may be under the impression that advocating for yourself in a car accident claim will save you money. At the onset, this may be true—and if you’re already pressed financially after the costs of the accident (we all know that medical bills can be outrageously high), it may be appealing.
But you also need to take into account the number of hours that are required in the process—hours that could be devoted to returning to work or continuing your recovery.
Above all, having a trusted advisor by your side is, well, priceless. They can assist you with navigating what may be foreign to you but second nature to them. And the more significant your damages are, the more crucial it may be to bring a lawyer on board for your claim. So if you’re wondering when to get an attorney for a car accident, you can start by assessing the damages and injuries incurred from it.
Find the Help You Need
Being involved in a car accident can be incredibly terrifying. In addition to managing physical pain, life-changing injuries, or damage to your car, you must also deal with your own insurance company to ensure your auto is promptly repaired, arrange rides, and, if you can’t work, cover your responsibilities.
If you'd like to find a lawyer, head to Mighty's Car Accident Attorney Directory and find a lawyer in your area today. Alternatively, you can start the claim yourself, and decide whether to get a lawyer later.
- Driver Knowledge. Car accident statistics in the U.S. https://www.driverknowledge.com/car-accident-statistics/
- Forbes. Typical car accident settlement amounts (2022). https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/auto-accident/typical-car-settlement-amounts/
- Forbes. How to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/auto-accident/settle-car-accident-claim-without-lawyer/
- NOLO. What to do after a car accident: checklist. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-to-do-after-a-car-accident.html
Written ByJosh Schwadron
Chief Executive Officer
About the author
Joshua is a lawyer and tech entrepreneur who speaks and writes frequently on the civil justice system. Previously, Joshua founded Betterfly, a VC-backed marketplace that reimagined how consumers find local services by connecting them to individuals rather than companies. Betterfly was acquired by Takelessons in 2014. Joshua holds a JD from Emory University, and a BA in Economics and MA in Accounting from the University of Michigan.
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Claim Helper is an AI software that helps you gather the right information, write a strong injury claim, and confidently negotiate with insurers. Click here to learn more.